The key to treating any ailment is its accurate diagnosis. Fibromyalgia is one such condition that requires a through diagnosis of its symptoms. It is not an easy task.
What makes it difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia?
- It takes a long while before an expert can diagnose fibromyalgia. This is because the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia are akin to the symptoms of various other ailments and can be easily mistaken for them.
For example, widespread body pain due to fibromyalgia can be misunderstood as fatigue and exertion. Poor sleep pattern due to fibromyalgia can be attributed to your stressful lifestyle. If you are experiencing mood swings due to fibromyalgia, they can be ascribed to pre-menstrual syndrome in women.
- Signs of fibromyalgia are inconsistent in nature. This means that the symptoms of this condition appear for a limited duration of time and then vanish. They reappear after a while.
This makes it very confusing for the sufferer as well as for the doctor to diagnose it correctly. The symptoms are often misinterpreted as common symptoms of other ailments. It sometimes takes months to figure out and diagnose the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- There is no specific test for diagnosing fibromyalgia. It implies that there is no blood test, scan or X-ray that will tell you that you have fibromyalgia. So, your doctor will rely on symptomatic diagnosis for this condition.
Criteria for diagnosing Fibromyalgia
There are certain criteria that need to be met to diagnose fibromyalgia. These are as follows:
- Ruling out other ailments: There is no other cause for the visible symptoms. All the other ailments are ruled out.Your health care expert will use trial and error method for diagnosing fibromyalgia. It means you will be undergoing tests to rule out other medical conditions to arrive at fibromyalgia diagnosis. These conditions can be:
- Rheumatic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus which have common symptoms like tenderness and pain just like fibromyalgia.
- Mental illness like depression and anxiety which make you experience fatigue, aches and pains similar to fibromyalgia.
- Neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis have symptoms like numbness and tingling which are common to fibromyalgia.
- Consistency: The symptoms persist for at least three months at a stretch.
- Painful areas: You are experiencing severe pain in 3 to 6 diverse areas of the body or mild pain in 7 or more different areas.
- Widespread pain in the body: It means the pain is present on the right and left side of the body as well as above and below the waist area.
- Presence of other symptoms like fatigue, tiredness after getting at least eight hours of sleep, and having trouble recalling and thinking clearly.
- Tender point method: This method of diagnosis was practiced earlier. It is still used by some doctors today. There are 18 tender points that were identified in your body. Pressure is applied on these tender points. If pain is felt in at least 11 of these 18 points, then you can get tested positive for fibromyalgia. But there are drawbacks of this method. How much pressure to apply is not specific. It may vary from person to person. The pain in tender points may vary from one day to another. For example, 7 tender points may experience pain on one day and 11 different points may be painful on the next.
7. Finding potential triggers: One more way of diagnosing fibromyalgia is to spot the potential triggering factors. Its symptoms may come up after experiencing extreme physical or mental trauma like an accident. Post traumatic stress may trigger signs of fibromyalgia.
In a nutshell, a comprehensive view of all the above factors will give the doctor a clear picture of the symptoms. An experience doctor will help you to diagnose your pain and discomfort and adopt an effective plan of treatment.